A handful of companies currently offer jet packs for sale to the public. JetPack International (Jet PI) is an American company founded by Troy Widgery, creator of Go Fast energy drinks. Jet PI took 50s-era rocket belt designs and updated them with modern fuels and materials. These efforts reduced weight, improved thrust and increased flight time to just over 30 seconds. In addition to public demonstrations, Jet PI offers some of their rocket belts and jet packs for sale. Their T-73 model is a true jet pack, with a claimed flight time of nine minutes and a sale price of $200,000. They formerly offered a rocket belt for sale for $150,000.
Tecnologia Aeroespacial Mexicana (TAM) is a Mexican company that offers a range of rocket-powered products, including the TAM Rocket Belt. The cost is $125,000. Both Jet PI and TAM include a training period in the purchase price. TAM says they include hands-on training and 10 test flights, along with set-up, maintenance and 24/7 technical support.
Thunderbolt Aerosystems has also announced plans to develop a jet pack with a flight time of more than 30 minutes. They originally sold a rocket pack for $125,000, but they claim the design rights were sold for use in "emergency and earthquake rescue operations" [source: Thunderbolt Aerosystems]. Their current model rocket pack has a claimed 75-second flight time.
Extensive training is a really good idea -- jet packs and rocket belts can be very dangerous. There are no reported serious injuries or fatalities as a result of jet pack use, but that probably has a lot to do with how rare they are. In most flights, the pilot is actually tethered to the ground, preventing loss of control. There are no back-up safety systems because the limited flight time of a rocket belt means the pilot will never get high enough off the ground to successfully use a parachute. Flying is very difficult -- the pilot has to navigate in three dimensions, and a human wearing a rocket is not a very stable flight platform. For these same reasons, it's not a good idea to try to build your own rocket belt or jet pack. In fact, the television show MythBusters examined plans for a homemade jet pack available on the Internet. Using high-powered fans, this device was supposed to provide lift via air thrust. The MythBusters team proved that that the plans were not viable.
Would you like to find out more about jet packs, rocket belts and other personal aircraft? Then check out the links below, they'll provide you with plenty of great information.
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- Daily Mail Online. "Rocketman flies over Alps with jet-pack strapped to his back." May 15, 2008. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-566434/ Pictured-Rocketman-flies-Alps-jet-pack-strapped-back.html
- Greenemeier, Larry. "The Trouble with Rocket Packs." Scientific American. April 29, 2008. http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=rocket-pack
- Greenemeier, Larry. "Will the Personal Jet Pack Ever Get off the Ground?" Scientific American. April 29, 2008. http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=jet-pack
- Irvine, Dean. "Where's my jetpack?" CNN.com. February 19, 2007. http://edition.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/02/19/ft.jetpacks/index.html
- Saunders, David. "The Rocket Belt." U.S. Army Transportation Museum. http://www.transchool.eustis.army.mil/Museum/Jetbelt.htm